Brandywine Health Foundation
FEEL GOOD STORY
How Brandywine Health Foundation is transforming the Coatesville community.
In Coatesville, just 32 miles from the affluent Main Line outside Philadelphia where doctors and dentists make up a huge part of the residential and professional population, there lives a single, pregnant mother who has a one-in-27,000 chance of finding a doctor or dentist to help her.
She's not alone.
Tens of thousands of people in the Coatesville area live without dental or medical care. The former steel town, less than an hour drive from Center City Philadelphia, has struggled with unemployment since steel industry jobs dried up there decades ago.
The ratio of residents to doctors or dentists is 27,000 to one, according to Jaclyn Gleber, a dental hygienist and former Thomas Jefferson University professor who works as an educator for the greater Coatesville community with the Chester County Community Dental Center. But in the past three years, with the help of the Brandywine Health Foundation, these statistics are improving.
An independent charity initially formed from the sale of the Brandywine Hospital, the Brandywine Health Foundation has been changing the lives of the Coatesville community since 2001. The foundation originally set out to build a one-story health center but saw an opportunity to do something more significant, says President and CEO Frances Sheehan.
With an $820,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development, private donations and funds from other foundations, Brandywine built a four-story, 48,000-square-foot health center that would cater to all who needed medical and dental care in the region. It succeeded.
"Our principal focus was to help the health needs of the uninsured," Sheehan says. "We knew if we made our case to the DCED, they would find the project very exciting."
And they did—as did the people of Coatesville. The Brandywine Center opened the doors of its state-of-the-art facility in April 2008, the first major development in Coatesville in more than 30 years. It combines ChesPenn Health Services, Child Guidance Resource Centers, Chester County Community Dental Center and Human Services Inc. all in one building, serving both the insured and the uninsured and attracting doctors and dentists to the area.
"We're hoping this will spur on more development [in Coatesville]," said Sheehan.
But hopes for brick-and-mortar development for the town are not the only goals the foundation had in mind with the creation of the health center, the potential impact of which is not restricted to the four walls of the building. Brandywine currently is researching and planning youth development initiatives that will provide children and young adults with health education and after-school programs in arts, tutoring and sports.
"We fear that young people aren't being given enough to succeed," Sheehan says. Once they are provided with proper medical care, the next step is to "find ways to help kids grow up mentally healthy, using their talents and going to college."
This means it's possible that in a few years, when Jaclyn Gleber meets a young pregnant mother who does not know that her gum disease will cause birth complications to her newborn, Gleber can not only make that mother healthy but also point her in the direction of motivating, educational resources for her and her child.
"I want to empower these people to take care of their own and to be their own care givers," Gleber says. "It's all about encouragement."